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Walt Weiskopf Nonet: Siren

David A. Orthmann By

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On his sixth outing for the Criss Cross label, Walt Weiskopf delivers a stunning recording, an artistic achievement of the highest order. Weiskopf has developed his talents as a composer, arranger, and tenor saxophonist to the extent that each aspect demands the listener’s attention, thus making repeated listening an adventure and a pleasure. In addition, he has assembled a formidable, nine-piece ensemble of peers (several of whom have worked with him on other projects) who play his music with spirit and precision, as well as offering strong, individual solo voices.

Weiskopf’s compositions are logical but not predictable. He composes memorable themes, successfully mixes various combinations of instruments, gracefully changes moods and tempos, and writes stimulating figures behind the soloists. The title track, for example, features Weiskopf’s tenor sounding a little like bagpipes while playing a melody over a swell of sustained chords. A gentle theme ensues which then evolves into a broad, swinging tune played by the whole band, setting up Weiskopf’s solo and those of flutist Anders Bostrom and alto saxophonist Jim Snidero.

His treatment of Snidero’s “In A Daze,” one of three non-originals on the disc, burns with a delirious intensity. Weiskopf, Snidero, and trombonist Conrad Herwig, play over the horns and with just the rhythm section comprised of pianist Joel Weiskopf (the leader’s brother and fellow Criss Cross artist), bassist Doug Weiss, and drummer Billy Drummond, who displays an earthy rapport with Herwig’s choppy phrases. In contrast, an ethereal version of “Close Your Eyes” creates a feeling of stillness for trumpeter Joe Magnarelli’s aching, romantic solo.

Soloing on every track except “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home,” a brief feature for the band and his brother, Weiskopf always sounds strong, focused, and in complete control of his instrument. His lines alternatively hurtle forward and briefly slip and slide until he inevitably puts things back in order. An extended turn during “Zone” is calculated madness, with notes sounding as if they’re being ripped from the horn and Drummond egging Weiskopf on to even greater intensity.


Track Listing: Glass Eye; Siren; In A Daze; Close Your Eyes; Victory March; Night In Ferrara; Zone; Baby Won't You Please Come Home; Separation.

Personnel: Walt Weiskopf--tenor sax; Anders Bostrom--flute, alto flute; Jim Snidero--alto sax, flute; Scott Robinson--baritone sax, bass clarinet; Joe Magnarelli--trumpet, flugelhorn; Conrad Herwig--trombone; Joel Weiskopf--piano; Doug Weiss--bass; Billy Drummond--drums.

Title: Siren | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Criss Cross


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